All Blacks embark on a tour like no other

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Preparing plans to deal with the different challenges offered by playing Australia, Argentina and the world champions South Africa in the Fortinet Rugby Championship would be the normal requirement.

 

But throw in the extra demands of the centenary Test and a northern hemisphere trip, Foster has unprecedented permutations caused by Covid-19 to plot.

 

Central to the demands is the absence of key players first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga, halfback Aaron Smith and lock Sam Whitelock on paternity leave. Hooker Dane Coles is also on injury recovery. All of them are uncertain when they can join the side, probably during their Queensland stint.

 

There is also the need to name a new captain, something he preferred to announce once they were in Perth and preparing for Sunday's Test. That would allow them to discuss plans with the leadership group in that environment.

 

"It's been an eventful 12 months with captains," he said.

 

"Firstly, Sam Cane with his injury, then Sam Whitelock's come in. and he's done a fantastic job. So with him not being there, we've also had Aaron Smith this year when Sammy wasn't playing early in the year, and Aaron's not there, so it has tested our depth in that regard. But we've got a lot of confidence in our leadership plan. The work done by Gilbert [Enoka] with our leaders has been outstanding in the last 12 months.

 

"We know who we want. We wanted to get over to Perth and create some energy by having those conversations once we're over there," he said.

Foster said while there was a lot of talk about meeting the Springboks for the first time since the Rugby World Cup, there was a Test against Australia first. Then two Tests against Argentina. There were unknowns about when the senior players could join the side and what their quarantine requirements were.

 

"We'd prefer to have all our experienced players on deck but this is a chance to grow a bit of depth by necessity," he said.

 

They had known for some time players would not be available due to the arrival of babies. But, in normal circumstances, that would have occurred when Tests were played in New Zealand.

 

"We're massively supportive of the decisions they've made for their families," Foster said.

 

"I know the team is 100 per cent behind them…and I know they're very keen to jump on a plane as soon as they can. It's been difficult saying goodbye to them, but the reality is that's what we have to do in these times.

 

"Everyone has had to say goodbye to families. But, overall, we're very excited about it, and we know when we get to Perth, we can settle down and address the challenges ahead one by one.

 

Foster said the decision to take only Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie as the first five-eighths was made in the likelihood Mo'unga would join the side sooner rather than later. Had they taken another player, there was a chance they would not get a lot of play, and they would have to stay with the side for 15 weeks. Should Mo'unga's arrival be delayed, they would look again at that decision, he said.

Cane was another expected to make a belated appearance with the side.

 

Foster said had they still been in New Zealand, Cane's path back to playing would have been through the Bunnings NPC with the Steamers but, now, with the uncertainty of when that was going to start, the quarantine factor into Queensland became an issue.

 

"We can't crystal ball gaze into everything so we will probably make those decisions in two or three weeks."

 

It was comparable to the situation with props Joe Moody and Ofa Tuungafasi. The preference would have been to have them playing provincial rugby before joining them, but if they hadn't gone with the All Blacks on Thursday, they would have faced two weeks in quarantine, so it made more sense to take them, he said.

 

It becomes a case of tallying up government regulations and quarantine rules between the two countries and when the players can travel. That left quite a few things out of the All Blacks' control.

 

"If we ended up with five or six injuries of players who couldn't play any more then we're going to get stressed or stretched in terms of that number.

 

"We've got a balancing act here, it's partly why we're going with 35. It would have been easier to go with more but, clearly, we've got four guys we would have wanted on the plane that couldn't come for other reasons, and then there's another three or four we'd like to add at some stage depending on circumstances. Four or five Tests without any injuries would be very nice," he said.

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